Monday, April 16, 2007

Breast Cancer and the Single Girl

Do you have any idea what a hit your single life takes when you get cancer? Breast cancer ESPECIALLY?

Think about it. As women preparing for a date with the opposite sex, we tend to pull out all the stops:
First, what will we wear? What will show off the best of the best and hide the parts that have had, well, happier moments shall we say...?
Then comes the hair. Hair is an accessory, a shield and can be a weapon of mass destruction if styled just the right way.

But now you are diagnosed with cancer. And the doctors are going to start to remove things from you one by one...
They actually try to make us men!
They remove our breasts.
They remove our ovaries or put us into premature menopause.
And they make our hair fall out.
Basically, we become Julie Andrews in "Victor/Victoria",
"You mean you want me to be a woman who is a man dressed to look like a woman??"

Before we get too desperate here, though, let us not forget the bionic part of the equation: Plastic surgeons can give our breasts a new life. This I know for a fact. My "new" ones look better than my "old" ones and I am not even done with reconstruction yet. (I adore my plastic surgeon. He is a genius and an artist.)

I have also discovered that one need not look like Phyllis Diller on a bad wig day. They actually can make a wig, made of human hair that looks exactly like your own. I mean EXACTLY. No one can tell it is a wig. And a wig is temporary because the hair WILL return.

The ovary business? Premature menopause is no picnic from what I hear... but think of it this way, you are never chilly again. You can wear a strappy dress that shows off your new breasts and fling your gorgeous human hair wig and not even shiver. True, you might be sweating and breathing a bit heavily, but a date may think you are positively longing for him... or have malaria. (Order a gin and tonic and tell him you need the quinine if you aren't attracted to him.)

I had my first cancer five years ago. I met someone after chemo. I was overweight because I gained 18 pounds of chemoweight. I had absolutely no self esteem and considered myself a cancer patient and not a woman any more. He didn't see that. He actually liked ME. I thought he was heaven sent. So much so I ignored his many flaws. And there were many. I thought he was the best I could do. But then I started to lose the chemoweight and come back to the person I used to be. It was then I realized the old me would never let a man get away with what I let this person get away with and I ended it. I really felt good about myself that day. It meant I must be getting better if I was willing to toss a boyfriend away when I was a breast cancer survivor and according to the world: washed up.

That is so not true!

We survivors have a lot to offer a new man. He just has to be the right kind. Someone who isn't afraid of a woman who has more courage and strength than anyone he has ever known. Someone who will drop everything, including a date with him, if a sister needs her, someone who has seen life from both sides and lives every moment.

What we need is a real man. Only the real thing will do after we have battled the Beast and won. Men who aren't afraid. Men who appreciate who we are under the hair and make-up. Men who you really can only find today on Turner Movie Classics.

Sadly, they don't seem to make too many of the old models anymore so you have to look hard to weed out the lemons. Some of our poor married sisters are stuck with lemons. You know who I mean. The kind who bail when things get a little rough. I cannot tell you how many women I know who have had their husbands leave them while they were in treatment. Can you ever imagine Cary Grant doing that? He would drive you to your infusions in a tuxedo for pete's sake. They are out there. Watch and listen carefully and you will separate the men from the boys.

Since my first diagnosis I have lost even more weight by cutting down all fats. I work out and am happy when I look in the mirror. My hair is nice and long and I feel like I look better now than I did before I had cancer. So what do I do with all this newfound joy and glee?
I get re-diagnosed.
THIS was not in my plan.
It gets better.
I actually found one. I met a real man. Amazing but true. I am telling you- keep your eyes open and be attentive- they are among us. I am attracted to this man and I think he may not be frightened off by the Warrior Angel that dwells in all us survivors. Isn't that perfect? I met him at the worst possible time. He is intriguing, intelligent, and a rare find. I do think he is attracted to me as well. Normally I would test this theory but I am letting the moment pass because I cannot move forward because my dance card is a bit full.

I will be starting chemo next week. In three weeks I will lose my hair. I have had my breasts removed - but they are a work in progress. I will be in chemo for six months. What is that old saying? Every time my ship comes in I am at the airport? It feels a bit like that. So this man will disappear back into real man land and find Myrna Loy or one of you. Granted, it was just at the attraction stage, nothing more. But I do have an active imagination...

But one thing I am not imagining is that THIS time, cancer is really getting in the way of my life. Life threatening? Oh yeah, that too. But that is why I am doing the chemo and that is why it is so VERY inconvenient right now.

Maybe after this is all over I will be feeling my invincible wonder woman self once again, someday.

But why wait? Why disintegrate into sloth and self pity just because I have an E ticket to Cancerland this summer? I did that LAST time. And I was miserable and had every side effect known to man.

So I made a decision. I am not having chemo. I am beginning boot camp. I am buying a new elliptical and will train on it every day that I can, with the exception of chemo days. I intend on NOT gaining weight from chemo. Rather, I am going to work on those places that have had happier moments and make the rest of me look and feel its absolute best. ( I have to make my body catch up to my new 18 year old breasts anyway!)

But seriously, maybe we have all been looking at chemo the wrong way. I can look at it like a prison sentence that is robbing me of a summer. Actually that is exactly how I HAVE looked at it. But no. This must stop now. Immediately! We women are beautiful. We should look at it like boot camp. It will suck, it will hurt, it will make us tired, but when it is all over we are buff fighting machines with the short haircuts to prove it.

So that is how THIS single woman is doing Round Two this time. I am challenging myself to not only make myself better on the inside- but on the outside as well.

I will keep you posted on my progress...

And should that elusive real man still flirt with me in six months? Well then, we will know I am on to something then won't we?

As one of my heroes once said,

"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

No Mr. Churchill, won't give in. Not now. Not ever.


Anonymous said...

I read your blog because I found it on a website my wife uses to help her with her breast cancer.

All I want to say about this article is any man with his eyes open and a working brain would find you attractive no matter what you are doing.

My wife lost all her hair. She is still the beautiful woman I fell in love with. I also don't have any hair so who am I to complain? She doesn't care.

You are beautiful inside and out because you have helped my wife so much. A man would be lucky to have you by his side.

All the best with your cancer treatment. Take is easy on the exercise equipment because you will have some rough days.All in all Elaine has had very little ill effects and will be finished in June.

Yours truly,
George from North Carolina
"Nanaelaine"s husband

Kelly said...

I am single with mets as well. I was single when I was originally diagnosed at age 35 in 2000. I have dated several men in between then and now. Nearly all of whom were wonderful, understanding men (like George E.). But unfortunately, one of whom was just as you described your ex-boyfriend. Someone I normally would never have dated and whom I allowed to do and say things no one has ever done or said to me.

I felt like no one else would want this one-boobed, bald-headed, chemo-chubby (I have gained about 15 lbs.), hot-flashing, low-libidoed 42 year old who has cancer AGAIN. What a loser!

I've been talking to some great guys since I kicked the REAL loser out. I have no idea where (if at all) anything will go with any man at this point. But it's good to have someone outside your inner circle to talk to, and it's good to have that male perspective. I love men, and miss having the confidence to feel like they could love me too.

How did you only get 6 months this time? I had that amount my first time around. This time around, well...I just had my 16th treatment yesterday and June 2nd will be a year. My doctor said that I will be on something the rest of my life. I know everyone and every cancer is different though, just as all of our bodies/circumstances are different. I'm happy for you that you will have an end date to look forward to, and a light at the end of the tunnel at which to arrive.

As far as workiing out goes, you've been through this before, so you know you'll have good days and bad. You'll know your limits, and you know your body. Some days you'll feel like working out, others you can barely get out of bed. I've been trying to continue to work out, but I find that my strength and stamina have significantly decreased. It's frustrating, but I do what I can just to keep moving.

So, just keep on moving, and keep on dancing, and doing whatever feels right for you.

I love your site and the way you put into words things I can't articulate as well.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Warrior Angel!

Hugs to you as you begin the beguine,

Gina Maisano said...

hey George, you are helping us see they DO still make the real man model. Please say hello to your wife!

Hi Kelly,
First, your pic is gorgeous. I should think with the fact that you are out there with male friends and companionship you will definitely find someone for you. I had a long talk with a doctor friend of mine today and he said there are guys who see PAST the ravages this Beast has left us with and see the real woman underneath. It was great to hear a man say it! (He is married and no brothers- I checked ;) )

I haven't been looking. And then, when I least expected it at the worst possible time in the most unusual of circumstances I was very attracted to this man. It never went any further than that. I knew he was flirting with me and would have been a little more bold under other conditions, but I am just starting chemo next week and had a bilateral last month. It is hard to be alluring right now! So I just act normal around him now.

It is great you are talking with a lot of guys. That is a start right there. You are OUT THERE. That is how you will find him. Just don't settle! You saw what that is like and that is the worst thing for our self esteem!

To answer your question, I have a new primary, not mets. My first cancer was five years ago. Tripneg, IDC. This time it came back to the other breast as Lobular, er+ with 4+nodes. Since it was NOT a return of a tripneg they cannot even call it a "recurrance." It is like I am starting at square one again.

Kelly, please keep in touch. I would love to hear how you are doing and share things with you. We sisters have to stick together!


Kelly said...


It sounds like we are in a similar frame of mind as far as men and dating are concerned. I'm not looking either, my dance card is a bit full with work, chemo, feeling bad, trying to get things accomplished when I feel good, spending time with my friends and family, spending time alone.

If something or someone comes along that can fit into all of that, then great. If not, I'm fine with that too. I've never been one to need a man in my life to feel complete. Wanting one is a whole different thing though.

I don't feel sexy, or alluring, or attractive, or like a woman. It's difficult to date under those circumstances. And my libido since being thrown into chemopause is just gone. My perspective has changed without those raging hormones. This can be a good thing in many ways, I feel I make wiser decisions...but I do miss the old sexual me. A lot.

I hate that the beast came back at all for you, but I am glad to hear that it's not mets. New cancer, new battle plan. The second time around is a tad bit less scary since you already know a little of what to expect and how to get yourself through it. I can tell you've already got a great attitude and fighting spirit heading into this.

What day next week are you starting chemo? How often will you have your treatments? I will be thinking of you and wishing you strength every day, but on those days especially.


Gina Maisano said...

Kelly, we seem to think a lot alike!
I am a hopeful romantic, but not looking to do anything about it. I really do believe in thunderbolts and the power of attraction. If you meet someone that really gets your attention - then that is half the battle! So I believe if it will happen it will happen, but until then, I love being single and love my house and my friends and my life and am happy being by myself because I happen to be good company!

Can you take anything that would help you feel a bit better? I know a lot of girls are on Effexor to help with the s/e's of chemopause. I plan on taking that too. You are too young and pretty to be feeling like that.

I HATE what the Beast does to people!!

If all goes well, the chemo will start next Wednesday and I will have it every two weeks for the next six months...I am not going to think about it until Tuesday night!

Thanks for thinking of me,
you take good care of YOU, too!